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“Quiet hiring” – re-skilling by a different name

By Shandel McAuliffe | |6 minute read

Through the second half of 2022, HR media was full of stories about quiet quitters, but now it seems the inverse is happening.

On the back of well-documented resourcing issues in several industries, the growing trend for HR and business leaders is to use existing employees or consultants to acquire the needed skills and capabilities rather than hire new staff. The practice has been dubbed "quiet hiring" by Gartner.

Ultimately, it's about filling skills gaps without necessarily increasing headcount.


While quiet hiring is a new buzz term in HR, high-performing organisations have been on to the trend for years to meet organisational needs through upskilling and re-skilling existing workers, so it's heartening to see wider adoption and more publicity for it.

With so much speculation about the state of the economy, both locally and globally, it's understandable that HR leaders might be a little reticent to grow their teams enormously. Instead, organisations are choosing to slow down their hiring, focus more on the skills they need and concentrate on identifying internal talent (or consultants) who might like to pivot or temporarily move roles.

Quiet hiring is a far more economical solution to address a skills gap within the business, than an entire external recruitment campaign; but HR leaders must ensure they have excellent communication, career pathways and L&D in place to support re-skilling or upskilling of existing staff. They need to demonstrate to employees that there are benefits for their career, as well as advantages for the business, and be able to back that up with a structured career pathway and learning opportunities.

According to Cornerstone People Research Lab, Thriving in the Global Skills Shortage: Your Path Through the Wilderness, June, 2022, high-performing organisations were those where management and employees were aligned in their views and where companies significantly prioritised career pathways and learning and development. High-performing organisations emphasise skills development more than their counterparts, and their employees share this view. In these organisations, the gap between employee and employer perceptions of the importance of skills development is only 11 per cent, in contrast to a 42 per cent gap in lower-performing organisations.

The distinction between high-performing and other organisations becomes apparent when analysing plans for developing competencies. According to the Cornerstone research, nearly three-quarters of high-performing organisations (72 per cent) have already begun prioritising investments in competence development for 2023. Given that these organisations consistently achieve superior results and foster greater employee confidence in new skills-building initiatives, their increased emphasis on skills development serves as a clear indication for other organisations to follow suit.

HR leaders new to the idea of quiet hiring should take the initiative to determine where the skills gaps exist within their organisation. Once identified, they can create a talent mobility program by identifying employees willing to change roles or take on challenging assignments. The process should also include plans to provide training and development opportunities to current employees to ensure they have the necessary skills to excel in their positions.

In some cases, the better solution might be to consider contractors or consultants to take on the work without increasing headcount, but it is necessary to do the groundwork of the gap analysis to identify that.

Quiet hiring or re-skilling employees has the advantage of mitigating attrition rates in a tight labour market, with employees more likely to stick with an employer who respects and encourages them to take on more responsibility or explore different roles. Ultimately, to prepare the workforce for the future, organisations will increasingly need to move towards an approach to training and talent management that prioritises the development of new skills.

Paul Broughton is the head of APJ for Cornerstone OnDemand



The term "workforce" or "labour force" refers to the group of people who are either employed or unemployed.

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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